CNS photo/Paul Haring
By Drew Dillingham
Catholic News Service
(Ninth in a series)
ROME — One of the most joyful people I know is one of my wife’s relatives who I will call Anne. Anne is almost always happy and immediately lights up a room when she enters it. On major holidays, my wife and I venture up to Long Island, New York, from Washington, D.C., to visit family. Every time we arrive, I can count on being warmly welcomed and embraced by Anne as soon as we walk through the door. Anne’s joy is truly contagious — her happiness brings happiness to others. To me, she epitomizes the spirit of St. Mother Teresa’s life and teachings: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
What I have not mentioned is that Anne is developmentally disabled. It is apparent that this condition has not kept her from bringing a bit of God’s kingdom to Earth; rather, it has provided her with a unique ability to do so.
Volunteers and participants at retreat for adults with cognitive disabilities take time for prayer at a parish in Kaukauna, Wis., in 2014. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)
Earlier this week, I was dismayed to learn about the extent of abuse perpetrated against people like Anne. According to the National Research Council, the rates of abuse against disabled children range between 22 and 70 percent. Other studies found that “individuals with intellectual disabilities are 4 to 10 more times as likely to be victims of crime than others without disabilities (Sobsey, et al., 1995). One study also found that children with intellectual disabilities were at twice the risk of physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities (Crosse et. al., 1993).” This is truly disturbing.
People can abuse disabled children undetected for a prolonged period because of society’s tendency to attribute any negative behavioral changes in a child to his or her disability, rather than the abuse. It is important to recognize that all children, including those with disabilities, do not experience prolonged and unexpected negative behavioral changes at random — these changes are almost always a reaction to negative event they have experienced.
Another reason for the vulnerability of disabled children is lack of communication. It is very difficult for those with intellectual disabilities to voice their suffering to their caretakers — (Read More)